Twenty minutes into a phone conversation with a producer of the Fox NewsChannel's "Hannity and Colmes," I hung up abruptly.
"You're too wishy-washy for our show," he said to me. Fifteenminutes earlier, before he heard what I actually thought of the issue(should there be women priests?), he was arranging a limo to pick me up,instructing me on the details of my TV appearance. A fellow guest on "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher," backwhen it aired on ABC, had passed on my name as a possibility for the"conservative" team. And we all know what conservatives think on every topicfrom gun control to prayer in schools to abortion. Don't we?Apparently not. Right now I am among the growing number of Catholics in ourcountry who are politically homeless. I used to be a registered Independent until I went to vote ina primary election and was rejected. So, disgusted by Clinton's illicitaffair with Monica Lewinsky, and the fact that nine-year-olds were cominghome from school asking their parents what oral sex was, I signed up for theother team. But now, a year into a war that has devastated a country and haskilled too many American soldiers and more Iraqis than we'll ever know, I'mstarting to think that Bush might be more dangerous to our world than theguy who introduced oral sex into the elementary-school vocabulary.This is coming from someone who supported the war when the administration declared that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction. I informed myself on just war theory, and, despite the Catholic bishops' statement against war in Iraq, believed that if weapons of mass destruction were readily available and ready to be used, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a just war. I also feared 9/11 all over again if we didn't take action to stop terrorism. But the smoking gun never came, and the second premise of this war--that establishing democracy would be a cakewalk--also proved wrong. Even if the majority of Iraqis thirst for democracy, they can't seem to do democracy.
I respect Bush for his consistency, for his resolve, which areapparent in everything from his international relations with North Korea tonational faith-based initiatives. Characterized by his "God talk," Bush is aprofessed Christian in an increasingly secularized society. The president'sreligion is an example of his steadfastness; it doesn't fluctuate dependingon the issues du jour. He is pro-life, despite the unpopularity of thatposition. And while I am not a single-issue voter (although I do considermyself pro-life), a politician's position on abortion, to me, is emblematicof his entire faith philosophy, and affords me a window into his conscience.Moreover, Bush sees with rare clarity a vision of America he wants, and hechases that dream with an impressive fierceness. However, G.W.'s unflagging consistency and resolve are also whyhe is dangerous. He is so focused on onetree--establishing democracy in the Middle East--that he fails to see theforest of humanitarian causes that are just as, maybe even more important.Like a good boy scout, he sets out to extinguish his little campfire,oblivious to the forest fire endangering hundreds of homes. In short, alittle open-mindedness--that quality belonging to the "liberals"--would do himsome good.So I consider my alternative, the liberal ticket. I like the Democrats' position on social justice, the death penalty, and other humanitarian causes.Kerry would alienate America less from the United Nations and secure better relationships with many former or so-called allies. I support his dedication to education and social programs, and his agenda on national security. I'm not disgusted by the fact that Kerry is pro-choice. I would seriously consider a candidate who is pro-choice, if I felt he was anchored by strong morals and values. But I'm appalled by a lack of consistency, and what I see as hypocrisy. Two of the wealthiest men in America preach a message of humility to the masses, hoping to connect with the working man and woman desperately trying to make ends meet.
This "I'm one of you" talk doesn't jibe with me, because thereal middle and lower class can't go back to a Heinz kingdom with privatejets and mansions all over the country, or rely on the nice twenty-five-million nest egg our Southern boy tucked away in a few years as aprosecuting attorney. I want to believe Kerry and Edwards as they promise all kinds ofsocial programs that could help America read and write and succeed. I liketheir attempts at a system of national security that might prevent another9/11 without alienating us from the rest of the world. But, please, don'ttell me you are on the side of the poor when you have used every possibletax incentive to acquire your wealth. As a practicing Catholic, I don't fault Kerry for not agreeingwith every official church teaching, but I do raise an eyebrow at the sheerfrequency with which he changes his tune. I would like him more if hesincerely wrestled with how to integrate church teachings and his ownopinions, instead of aligning his positions with the latest public poll. Pro-choice Catholic politician Tom Daschle seems to dissect the abortionissue; Kerry appears to see it as a yes/no issue. I still don't know who this presidential candidate is, or what he believes,because his mantra changes every time I log on to the Internet. Maybe I am guilty of shopping for a particular personality versus anagenda in this year's election. But it is so difficult to decrypt the issuesin the five-minute soundbites that are meant to sell personalities. This iswhat I'm looking for: a person who can protect America from anotherterrorist attack, and help our nation combat our own kind of poverty. Yeah, it's easier to be a naysayer and bash both parties for theirweaknesses. Because once you place your official vote, you are somehowaccountable for that politician's choices. Every time I learn of anothergrisly death in Iraq, I send a quick prayer to heaven, because in some weird way, I feel partially responsible.
It's easier to be like Bill Maher, who finds fault with anything andeverything, and doesn't subscribe to any belief system or political party,but instead facilitates ferocious debates between adamant members of bothteams. Maybe it's easier to be the producer or the host of one of thosepolitical shows than a guest. Especially if you're like me, politicallyhomeless.